Maryland Child Support Modifications Explained
One of the more contentious elements of any divorce proceeding, or other falling-out between the parents of a child, is the child support agreement determination.
Emotions may run high among the parents, and even when both parties want what is best for their child, it is easy for the finer points to get lost. When the relationship between the parents is more amicable, the issue of money can still be difficult; which is why there are specific laws and guidelines governing child support modification agreements.
Who Can Petition for Child Support Modification?
The primary caretaker or custodial parent typically receives child support payments, and the non-custodial parent is the obligor – the party responsible for paying child support. Either party may submit a request to the court for child support modification, changing the monthly total owed by the obligor.
In order to obtain a successful child support modification, the plaintiff in the case (whichever side is bringing the child support modification request to court, be it the primary caregiver or the obligor) must present evidence of a change of circumstance; courts are reluctant to modify child support agreements on a whim.
Child support is calculated based on the gross income of both parents, and the costs of the child’s needs and lifestyle. Maryland courts try to issue child support decisions that maintain the quality of life that the child would have if the divorce or separation had not occurred. It is normal for several child support modification requests to be made over time, until the child turns 18. Such modifications can be temporary or permanent, depending on the factors prompting the request.
What Steps Should You Take When Requesting Child Support Modification?
- Document all changes in circumstance. The court will require evidence that a significant change has taken place that warrants a modification of the child support agreement.
- Learn as much as possible about Maryland child support law. The income calculations for child support modification and agreement can be difficult to understand; the child support lawyers at Houlon Berman can answer your questions and help you prepare your case.
- Initiate the process for requesting your child support modification promptly. Modifications to your child support agreement are NOT retroactive, so you should submit your request as close to the onset of your change of circumstances as possible.
- If possible, approach the other parent to discuss possible changes. Because of the difficulty and expense of taking a child support modification case to court, it can make the proceedings much easier if both parties can reach an informal compromise beforehand. However, this is not always possible, especially if there is animosity between you and the other parent. Consult your attorney before discussing child support modification with your child’s other parent.
- DO NOT rely on an informal agreement alone. Always go to court and have your child support agreement legally changed, even if you reach a compromise. Informal agreements do not carry the force of law, and you can end up responsible for back-payments if the other party decides to renege on your agreement. If you reach a compromise, get it in writing and bring it to court to make it official.
What Changes of Circumstances Warrant an Increase in Child Support?
- Decreased income by the child’s primary caregiver: If the custodial parent loses their job, they may need more money from the obligor to support their child.
- Increased costs associated with caring for the child: As a child grows, costs such as food, clothing, extracurricular activities, and medical expenses increase. As raising the child becomes more expensive, the non-custodial parent’s financial obligation becomes greater.
- Inheritance or income increase by the obligor: If a promotion, better-paying job, or other additional income puts the non-custodial parent in a better financial situation, they may need to contribute more money to support their child. This change of circumstance may include marriage, if the obligor’s new joint income is substantially higher.
What Changes of Circumstances Warrant a Decrease in Child Support?
- Changes in the custody arrangement: If the non-custodial parent gains more custody over the child (either temporarily, due to injury or illness of the primary caregiver, or on a permanent basis due to a renegotiation of the custody agreement), they are considered to be spending more money toward the child’s upbringing while in their care, and thus owe less in support payments.
- An INVOLUNTARY loss of obligor income: Under child support modification enforcement law, a court will unlikely reduce support paid by a parent who voluntarily quits their job to avoid or reduce child support payments. Temporary unemployment for seasonal workers does not warrant a modification if the work’s seasonal nature was considered when making the initial agreement.
- Inheritance or income increase by the primary caregiver: A substantial increase in income for the custodial parent means they are responsible for a larger share of the child’s expenses.
Contact Houlon Berman
If you have questions about modifications to child support payments, contact the attorneys at Houlon Berman. We have decades of experience helping families reach agreements that effectively cover their children’s expenses. To schedule your consultation, call our offices or click below.
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